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Chapter 12

  • Verena recognised him; she had seen him the night before at Miss Birdseye's, and she said to her hostess, "Now I must go—you have got another caller!" I_as Verena's belief that in the fashionable world (like Mrs. Farrinder, sh_hought Miss Chancellor belonged to it—thought that, in standing there, sh_erself was in it)—in the highest social walks it was the custom of a prio_uest to depart when another friend arrived. She had been told at people'_oors that she could not be received because the lady of the house had _isitor, and she had retired on these occasions with a feeling of awe muc_ore than a sense of injury. They had not been the portals of fashion, but i_his respect, she deemed, they had emulated such bulwarks. Olive Chancello_ffered Basil Ransom a greeting which she believed to be consummately lady- like, and which the young man, narrating the scene several months later t_rs. Luna, whose susceptibilities he did not feel himself obliged to consider (she considered his so little), described by saying that she glared at him.
  • Olive had thought it very possible he would come that day if he was to leav_oston; though she was perfectly mindful that she had given him n_ncouragement at the moment they separated. If he should not come she shoul_e annoyed, and if he should come she should be furious; she was als_ufficiently mindful of that. But she had a foreboding that, of the tw_rievances, fortune would confer upon her only the less; the only one she ha_s yet was that he had responded to her letter—a complaint rather wanting i_ichness. If he came, at any rate, he would be likely to come shortly befor_inner, at the same hour as yesterday. He had now anticipated this perio_onsiderably, and it seemed to Miss Chancellor that he had taken a bas_dvantage of her, stolen a march upon her privacy. She was startled, disconcerted, but as I have said, she was rigorously lady-like. She wa_etermined not again to be fantastic, as she had been about his coming to Mis_irdseye's. The strange dread associating itself with that was somethin_hich, she devoutly trusted, she had felt once for all. She didn't know wha_e could do to her; he hadn't prevented, on the spot though he was, one of th_appiest things that had befallen her for so long—this quick, confident visi_f Verena Tarrant. It was only just at the last that he had come in, an_erena must go now; Olive's detaining hand immediately relaxed itself.
  • It is to be feared there was no disguise of Ransom's satisfaction at findin_imself once more face to face with the charming creature with whom he ha_xchanged that final speechless smile the evening before. He was more glad t_ee her than if she had been an old friend, for it seemed to him that she ha_uddenly become a new one. "The delightful girl," he said to himself; "sh_miles at me as if she liked me!" He could not know that this was fatuous, that she smiled so at every one; the first time she saw people she treate_hem as if she recognised them. Moreover, she did not seat herself again i_is honour; she let it be seen that she was still going. The three stood ther_ogether in the middle of the long, characteristic room, and, for the firs_ime in her life, Olive Chancellor chose not to introduce two persons who me_nder her roof. She hated Europe, but she could be European if it wer_ecessary. Neither of her companions had an idea that in leaving them simpl_lanted face to face (the terror of the American heart) she had so high _arrant; and presently Basil Ransom felt that he didn't care whether he wer_ntroduced or not, for the greatness of an evil didn't matter if the remed_ere equally great.
  • "Miss Tarrant won't be surprised if I recognise her—if I take the liberty t_peak to her. She is a public character; she must pay the penalty of he_istinction." These words he boldly addressed to the girl, with his mos_allant Southern manner, saying to himself meanwhile that she was prettie_till by daylight.
  • "Oh, a great many gentlemen have spoken to me," Verena said. "There were quit_ number at Topeka——" And her phrase lost itself in her look at Olive, as i_he were wondering what was the matter with her.
  • "Now, I am afraid you are going the very moment I appear," Ransom went on. "D_ou know that's very cruel to me? I know what your ideas are—you expresse_hem last night in such beautiful language; of course you convinced me. I a_shamed of being a man; but I am, and I can't help it, and I'll do penance an_ay you may prescribe. Must she go, Miss Olive?" he asked of his cousin. "D_ou flee before the individual male?" And he turned to Verena.
  • This young lady gave a laugh that resembled speech in liquid fusion. "Oh no; _ike the individual!"
  • As an incarnation of a "movement," Ransom thought her more and more singular, and he wondered how she came to be closeted so soon with his kinswoman, t_hom, only a few hours before, she had been a complete stranger. These, however, were doubtless the normal proceedings of women. He begged her to si_own again; he was sure Miss Chancellor would be sorry to part with her.
  • Verena, looking at her friend, not for permission, but for sympathy, droppe_gain into a chair, and Ransom waited to see Miss Chancellor do the same. Sh_ratified him after a moment, because she could not refuse without appearin_o put a hurt upon Verena; but it went hard with her, and she was altogethe_iscomposed. She had never seen any one so free in her own drawing-room a_his loud Southerner, to whom she had so rashly offered a footing; he extende_nvitations to her guests under her nose. That Verena should do as he aske_er was a signal sign of the absence of that "home-culture" (it was so tha_iss Chancellor expressed the missing quality) which she never supposed th_irl possessed: fortunately, as it would be supplied to her in abundance i_harles Street. (Olive of course held that home-culture was perfectl_ompatible with the widest emancipation.) It was with a perfectly goo_onscience that Verena complied with Basil Ransom's request; but it took he_uick sensibility only a moment to discover that her friend was not pleased.
  • She scarcely knew what had ruffled her, but at the same instant there passe_efore her the vision of the anxieties (of this sudden, unexplained sort, fo_nstance, and much worse) which intimate relations with Miss Chancellor migh_ntail.
  • "Now, I want you to tell me this," Basil Ransom said, leaning forward toward_erena, with his hands on his knees, and completely oblivious to his hostess.
  • "Do you really believe all that pretty moonshine you talked last night? _ould have listened to you for another hour; but I never heard such monstrou_entiments, I must protest—I must, as a calumniated, misrepresented man.
  • Confess you meant it as a kind of reductio ad absurdum—a satire on Mrs.
  • Farrinder?" He spoke in a tone of the freest pleasantry, with his familiar, friendly Southern cadence.
  • Verena looked at him with eyes that grew large. "Why, you don't mean to sa_ou don't believe in our cause?"
  • "Oh, it won't do—it won't do!" Ransom went on, laughing. "You are on the wron_ack altogether. Do you really take the ground that your sex has been withou_nfluence? Influence? Why, you have led us all by the nose to where we ar_ow! Wherever we are, it's all you. You are at the bottom of everything."
  • "Oh yes, and we want to be at the top," said Verena.
  • "Ah, the bottom is a better place, depend on it, when from there you move th_hole mass! Besides, you are on the top as well; you are everywhere, you ar_verything. I am of the opinion of that historical character—wasn't he som_ing?—who thought there was a lady behind everything. Whatever it was, h_eld, you have only to look for her; she is the explanation. Well, I alway_ook for her, and I always find her; of course, I am always delighted to d_o; but it proves she is the universal cause. Now, you don't mean to deny tha_ower, the power of setting men in motion. You are at the bottom of all th_ars."
  • "Well, I am like Mrs. Farrinder; I like opposition," Verena exclaimed, with _appy smile.
  • "That proves, as I say, how in spite of your expressions of horror you deligh_n the shock of battle. What do you say to Helen of Troy and the fearfu_arnage she excited? It is well known that the Empress of France was at th_ottom of the last war in that country. And as for our four fearful years o_laughter, of course, you won't deny that there the ladies were the grea_otive power. The Abolitionists brought it on, and were not the Abolitionist_rincipally females? Who was that celebrity that was mentioned las_ight?—Eliza P. Moseley. I regard Eliza as the cause of the biggest war o_hich history preserves the record."
  • Basil Ransom enjoyed his humour the more because Verena appeared to enjoy it; and the look with which she replied to him, at the end of this little tirade,
  • "Why, sir, you ought to take the platform too; we might go round together a_oison and antidote!"—this made him feel that he had convinced her, for th_oment, quite as much as it was important he should. In Verena's face, however, it lasted but an instant—an instant after she had glanced at Oliv_hancellor, who, with her eyes fixed intently on the ground (a look she was t_earn to know so well), had a strange expression. The girl slowly got up; sh_elt that she must go. She guessed Miss Chancellor didn't like this handsom_oker (it was so that Basil Ransom struck her); and it was impressed upon her ("in time," as she thought) that her new friend would be more serious eve_han she about the woman-question, serious as she had hitherto believe_erself to be.
  • "I should like so much to have the pleasure of seeing you again," Ranso_ontinued. "I think I should be able to interpret history for you by a ne_ight."
  • "Well, I should be very happy to see you in my home." These words had barel_allen from Verena's lips (her mother told her they were, in general, th_roper thing to say when people expressed such a desire as that; she must no_et it be assumed that she would come first to them)—she had hardly uttere_his hospitable speech when she felt the hand of her hostess upon her arm an_ecame aware that a passionate appeal sat in Olive's eyes.
  • "You will just catch the Charles Street car," that young woman murmured, wit_uffled sweetness.
  • Verena did not understand further than to see that she ought already to hav_eparted; and the simplest response was to kiss Miss Chancellor, an act whic_he briefly performed. Basil Ransom understood still less, and it was _elancholy commentary on his contention that men are not inferior, that thi_eeting could not come, however rapidly, to a close without his plunging int_ blunder which necessarily aggravated those he had already made. He had bee_nvited by the little prophetess, and yet he had not been invited; but he di_ot take that up, because he must absolutely leave Boston on the morrow, and, besides, Miss Chancellor appeared to have something to say to it. But he pu_ut his hand to Verena and said, "Good-bye, Miss Tarrant; are we not to hav_he pleasure of hearing you in New York? I am afraid we are sadly sunk."
  • "Certainly, I should like to raise my voice in the biggest city," the gir_eplied.
  • "Well, try to come on. I won't refute you. It would be a very stupid world, after all, if we always knew what women were going to say."
  • Verena was conscious of the approach of the Charles Street car, as well as o_he fact that Miss Chancellor was in pain; but she lingered long enough t_emark that she could see he had the old-fashioned ideas—he regarded woman a_he toy of man.
  • "Don't say the toy—say the joy!" Ransom exclaimed. "There is one statement _ill venture to advance; I am quite as fond of you as you are of each other!"
  • "Much he knows about that!" said Verena, with a side-long smile at Oliv_hancellor.
  • For Olive, it made her more beautiful than ever; still, there was no trace o_his mere personal elation in the splendid sententiousness with which, turnin_o Mr. Ransom, she remarked: "What women may be, or may not be, to each other, I won't attempt just now to say; but what the truth may be to a human soul, _hink perhaps even a woman may faintly suspect!"
  • "The truth? My dear cousin, your truth is a most vain thing!"
  • "Gracious me!" cried Verena Tarrant; and the gay vibration of her voice as sh_ttered this simple ejaculation was the last that Ransom heard of her. Mis_hancellor swept her out of the room, leaving the young man to extract _elish from the ineffable irony with which she uttered the words "even _oman." It was to be supposed, on general grounds, that she would reappear, but there was nothing in the glance she gave him, as she turned her back, tha_as an earnest of this. He stood there a moment, wondering; then his wonde_pent itself on the page of a book which, according to his habit at suc_imes, he had mechanically taken up, and in which he speedily becam_nterested. He read it for five minutes in an uncomfortable-looking attitude, and quite forgot that he had been forsaken. He was recalled to this fact b_he entrance of Mrs. Luna, arrayed as if for the street, and putting on he_loves again—she seemed always to be putting on her gloves. She wanted to kno_hat in the world he was doing there alone—whether her sister had not bee_otified.
  • "Oh yes," said Ransom, "she has just been with me, but she has gone downstair_ith Miss Tarrant."
  • "And who in the world is Miss Tarrant?"
  • Ransom was surprised that Mrs. Luna should not know of the intimacy of the tw_oung ladies, in spite of the brevity of their acquaintance, being already s_reat. But, apparently, Miss Olive had not mentioned her new friend. "Well, she is an inspirational speaker—the most charming creature in the world!"
  • Mrs. Luna paused in her manipulations, gave an amazed, amused stare, the_aused the room to ring with her laughter. "You don't mean to say you ar_onverted—already?"
  • "Converted to Miss Tarrant, decidedly."
  • "You are not to belong to any Miss Tarrant; you are to belong to me," Mrs.
  • Luna said, having thought over her Southern kinsman during the twenty-fou_ours, and made up her mind that he would be a good man for a lone woman t_now. Then she added: "Did you come here to meet her—the inspirationa_peaker?"
  • "No; I came to bid your sister good-bye."
  • "Are you really going? I haven't made you promise half the things I want yet.
  • But we will settle that in New York. How do you get on with Olive Chancellor?"
  • Mrs. Luna continued, making her points, as she always did, with eagerness, though her roundness and her dimples had hitherto prevented her from bein_ccused of that vice. It was her practice to speak of her sister by her whol_ame, and you would have supposed, from her usual manner of alluding to her, that Olive was much the older, instead of having been born ten years late_han Adeline. She had as many ways as possible of marking the gulf tha_ivided them; but she bridged it over lightly now by saying to Basil Ransom;
  • "Isn't she a dear old thing?"
  • This bridge, he saw, would not bear his weight, and her question seemed to hi_o have more audacity than sense. Why should she be so insincere? She migh_now that a man couldn't recognise Miss Chancellor in such a description a_hat. She was not old—she was sharply young; and it was inconceivable to him, though he had just seen the little prophetess kiss her, that she should eve_ecome any one's "dear." Least of all was she a "thing"; she was intensely, fearfully, a person. He hesitated a moment, and then he replied: "She's a ver_emarkable woman."
  • "Take care—don't be reckless!" cried Mrs. Luna. "Do you think she is ver_readful?"
  • "Don't say anything against my cousin," Basil answered; and at that momen_iss Chancellor re-entered the room. She murmured some request that he woul_xcuse her absence, but her sister interrupted her with an inquiry about Mis_arrant.
  • "Mr. Ransom thinks her wonderfully charming. Why didn't you show her to me? D_ou want to keep her all to yourself?"
  • Olive rested her eyes for some moments upon Mrs. Luna, without speaking. The_he said: "Your veil is not put on straight, Adeline."
  • "I look like a monster—that, evidently, is what you mean!" Adeline exclaimed, going to the mirror to rearrange the peccant tissue.
  • Miss Chancellor did not again ask Ransom to be seated; she appeared to take i_or granted that he would leave her now. But instead of this he returned t_he subject of Verena; he asked her whether she supposed the girl would com_ut in public—would go about like Mrs. Farrinder?
  • "Come out in public!" Olive repeated; "in public? Why, you don't imagine tha_ure voice is to be hushed?"
  • "Oh, hushed, no! it's too sweet for that. But not raised to a scream; no_orced and cracked and ruined. She oughtn't to become like the others. Sh_ught to remain apart."
  • "Apart—apart?" said Miss Chancellor; "when we shall all be looking to her, gathering about her, praying for her!" There was an exceeding scorn in he_oice. "If I can help her, she shall be an immense power for good."
  • "An immense power for quackery, my dear Miss Olive!" This broke from Basil'_ips in spite of a vow he had just taken not to say anything that should
  • "aggravate" his hostess, who was in a state of tension it was not difficult t_etect. But he had lowered his tone to friendly pleading, and the offensiv_ord was mitigated by his smile.
  • She moved away from him, backwards, as if he had given her a push. "Ah, well, now you are reckless," Mrs. Luna remarked, drawing out her ribbons before th_irror.
  • "I don't think you would interfere if you knew how little you understand us,"
  • Miss Chancellor said to Ransom.
  • "Whom do you mean by 'us'—your whole delightful sex? I don't understand you, Miss Olive."
  • "Come away with me, and I'll explain her as we go," Mrs. Luna went on, havin_inished her toilet.
  • Ransom offered his hand in farewell to his hostess; but Olive found i_mpossible to do anything but ignore the gesture. She could not have let hi_ouch her. "Well, then, if you must exhibit her to the multitude, bring her o_o New York," he said, with the same attempt at a light treatment.
  • "You'll have me in New York—you don't want any one else!" Mrs. Lun_jaculated, coquettishly. "I have made up my mind to winter there now."
  • Olive Chancellor looked from one to the other of her two relatives, one nea_nd the other distant, but each so little in sympathy with her, and it cam_ver her that there might be a kind of protection for her in binding the_ogether, entangling them with each other. She had never had an idea of tha_ind in her life before, and that this sudden subtlety should have gleame_pon her as a momentary talisman gives the measure of her present nervousness.
  • "If I could take her to New York, I would take her farther," she remarked, hoping she was enigmatical.
  • "You talk about 'taking' her, as if you were a lecture-agent. Are you goin_nto that business?" Mrs. Luna asked.
  • Ransom could not help noticing that Miss Chancellor would not shake hands wit_im, and he felt, on the whole, rather injured. He paused a moment befor_eaving the room—standing there with his hand on the knob of the door. "Loo_ere, Miss Olive, what did you write to me to come and see you for?" He mad_his inquiry with a countenance not destitute of gaiety, but his eyes showe_omething of that yellow light—just momentarily lurid—of which mention ha_een made. Mrs. Luna was on her way downstairs, and her companions remaine_ace to face.
  • "Ask my sister—I think she will tell you," said Olive, turning away from hi_nd going to the window. She remained there, looking out; she heard the doo_f the house close, and saw the two cross the street together. As they passe_ut of sight her fingers played, softly, a little air upon the pane; it seeme_o her that she had had an inspiration.
  • Basil Ransom, meanwhile, put the question to Mrs. Luna. "If she was not goin_o like me, why in the world did she write to me?"
  • "Because she wanted you to know me—she thought I would like you!" An_pparently she had not been wrong; for Mrs. Luna, when they reached Beaco_treet, would not hear of his leaving her to go her way alone, would not i_he least admit his plea that he had only an hour or two more in Boston (h_as to travel, economically, by the boat) and must devote the time to hi_usiness. She appealed to his Southern chivalry, and not in vain; practically, at least, he admitted the rights of women.